Monday, May 20th, 2019

Mayor out of tune and out of touch


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Mar 1, 2012; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A

Mayor out of tune and out of touch
Scrima MIA at GuitarTown announcement

The place to be was Key Westconsin on Monday afternoon when the artists were announced for the GuitarTown art project. Aside from the free hors d’oeuvres, and I ate more than my share of the scallops, it was a chance to talk with some of the artists about their work and to learn a bit more about the project.

What should be really interesting when the guitars are finally unveiled is the accompanying photo documentary project. Volunteers, mostly Carroll University students, are doing a photo history of the projects in progress.

Susan Schoultz of Clear Verve Marketing, GuitarTown’s marketing company, told me that the artists’ conceptions will be up on a website for everyone to see. I hope so, as I think that will help build the community’s enthusiasm for the project. Waukesha residents like to see what they’re getting. If I have one suggestion for the GuitarTown steering committee, I would suggest making copies of some of the artists’ conception drawings and putting them on display in strategic locations downtown.

* * *

If the place to be on Monday was Key Westconsin for the important announcement of the artists, then it was a shame the project’s most public supporter missed it. Missing in action from Monday’s event was Mayor Jeff Scrima. The mayor was clearly expected to attend. BID President Norm Bruce made a point of mentioning that the mayor was expected to say a few words when he arrived. Despite Bruce’s best efforts to stall, an hour after the event started there was no mayor. The audience and the artists spilled into the streets of Waukesha in search of other diversions. (I spent more money at a local art gallery.)

I spent much of Tuesday contacting those connected to the announcement party to ask if they had heard why the mayor skipped the event. The answers ranged from, “I haven’t spoken to the mayor today” to “Why are you asking me? I don’t know.”

As of Tuesday night, the mayor’s office was silent, of course.

If nothing else, you would have thought he would have shown up just to see what his controversial New Day in Waukesha Fund was buying.

For good or for ill, Scrima is the project’s biggest cheerleader and a member of the project’s steering committee. He is also the community’s civic leader and its representative to the world at large.

The mayor’s strange, unexplained absence is inexcusable. By not showing up without any explanation, he insulted the artists who were being honored that day, the project’s volunteers, and the community he serves.

By the way, it’s unlikely that it was a family obligation that kept Scrima away. His parents were at the Key Westconsin reception. Perhaps when they see him next they might speak to him about priorities and obligations.

* * *

Speaking of odd behavior, Mayor Jeff Scrima wrote the agenda for his downtown task force’s first meeting on Wednesday. He included an odd agenda item: “excessive complaints.”

Clearly directed at former Scrima supporters Tom and Vicky Hekkers, the agenda item was clearly beyond the scope of the task force approved by the Common Council.

The task force is supposed to be concerned with “downtown events such as the consumption of alcohol in public places, street closures, pedestrian safety, hours of operation, sound levels and parking violations” and not mayoral political score-settling.

When combined with the mayor’s supporters leaking the Hekkerses’ record of complaints to the city, it’s an obvious attempt at public intimidation of private citizens who are partly responsible for the renaissance of downtown.

There are still questions surrounding the leaking of information concerning former City Administrator Lori Luther’s job search. More recently, when the mayor allegedly nearly drove into city employee Derek Knox in the City Hall parking lot, information that was not publicly known about Knox suddenly appeared online even though it was a Saturday.

Now the Hekkerses are being targeted, both through leaked information and by the mayor through the task force. Their only real offense is to have gone from defending the mayor to becoming his critics.

Scrima and his supporters, whether coordinated or not, have launched a campaign to try to intimidate and silence any critics of the mayor. It’s worth remembering that the former mayor of Pewaukee Jeff Nowak was recalled for similar behavior. You would think one of Scrima’s smart people, Harlan Clinkenbeard, would remind Mayor Scrima what happened to Nowak. Clinkenbeard was the city administrator under Nowak.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


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